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Jackie Kennedy Hoped Nothing Would Go Wrong While Pregnant with JFK Jr After Losing 2 Children in a Row

Junie Sihlangu
Mar 09, 2022
01:00 P.M.
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Jackie Kennedy's journey to becoming a parent was a long and painful one. All in all, the former US First Lady would've had five children in total with her husband, John F. Kennedy, if tragedy didn't strike several times.


Former US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy Sr. (JFK) and his only wife, First Lady Jackie Lee Kennedy, initially tied the knot in 1953. However, the couple only had children together several years later, in 1957.

The reason why it took so long might've been due to JFK's various health issues preventing pregnancy. For instance, in October 1954, Jackie's husband had surgery that almost took his life at a young age.

First Lady of the US Jackie Kennedy posing with her children John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, circa 1961, and Jackie at the funeral of her husband John F. Kennedy Sr. on November 23, 1963, in Washington, D.C. | Source: Rolls Press/Popperfoto & Dick Kraus/Newsday RM/Getty Images


He had a metal plate placed in his lower back to help fuse his spine; however, he developed a urinary tract infection. His family thought he was dying because he got intensely sick, and a priest was called to administer his last rites.

It was the second time a priest was called because of JFK's ill health, as in 1947, he was diagnosed with an adrenal gland disorder called Addison's disease. However, he and his wife also had personal fertility issues that compounded their problem.


Jackie and John F. Kennedy with their wedding party after their church ceremony in 1953. | Source: Bettmann/Getty Images


According to Steven Levingston's e-book, "The Kennedy Baby: The Loss That Transformed JFK," Jackie's pregnancies were all difficult, with her first one occurring in 1955. Ken O'Donnell, JFK's adviser, and friend, revealed:

“[Jackie] learned that carrying and delivering a child would always be difficult for her."

Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy with his bride Jacqueline Lee Bouvier shortly after their wedding ceremony at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1953. | Source: Keystone/Getty Images


Jackie lost her very first child after three months of pregnancy. When she was pregnant again for the second time, on August 23, 1956, she woke up crying out for her mother while hemorrhaging a month before her baby was due.

While giving birth to the stillborn baby, her husband leisurely cruised the Mediterranean with friends on a yacht. JFK, then a Massachusetts senator didn't think about going back home to be with Jackie until his friend George Smathers told him the neglect could lose him his presidential candidacy.

President John F. Kennedy photographed in the Daily News color studio in circa 1961. | Source: NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images


Even though reports revealed Jackie never gave her first daughter a name, people close to her said she wanted the child to be named Arabella. However, the unofficial name never appeared in written records or formal documents.

Jackie allegedly referred to her late daughter by that given name now and again. The former first lady also mourned the child's passing for months after the heart-wrenching loss.


President of the US John F. Kennedy with his wife Jackie Kennedy early in their marriage in Massachusetts, in the 1950s. | Source: Popperfoto/Getty Images


Luckily, the following year, on November 27, 1957, Jackie received her blessing when baby Caroline was born healthy and well. The baby girl enchanted JFK and led to his heart opening up in ways he didn't know was ever possible.

His daughter's birth opened him up to maturity as a father, a man, and a husband. The former US President finally felt a sense of responsibility to his child and his wife at that moment.

Senator John F. Kennedy announcing he will seek the 1960 Democratic Presidential nomination on January 2, 1960. | Source: Bettmann/Getty Images


The Kennedy's became parents for the second time at 1:17 a.m. on November 25, 1960, when their son, John F. Kennedy Jr., was welcomed. However, the little boy was born around three weeks premature.

At first, John Jr. suffered from respiratory problems and didn't cry when spanked after birth. Ira Seiler, a second-year pediatric resident, took action by inserting a tube into the boy's trachea and blowing air into the lungs to allow the child to survive.

President John Kennedy, his wife Jackie, and their children John Jr. and Caroline at Palm Beach, Florida, on April 14, 1963. | Source: Apic/Getty Images


Writer Gail Westcott wrote a 1994 People tribute to Jackie, recalling their 1960 meeting during the Democratic National Convention. Westcott shared that they met at Jackie's Hyannis Port house.

It happened to be the night JFK was nominated for US Presidency 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles. The writer revealed that when Jackie was carrying John Jr., she made it a point to do all she could so that nothing would go wrong with the pregnancy this time around.                                                                                               


Jacqueline Kennedy and Senator John F. Kennedy at their summer home reading to their daughter Caroline in 1960. | Source: Bettmann/Getty Images


During her fifth pregnancy, Jackie had to be airlifted to a hospital while suffering from acute back and stomach pains. While flying to the hospital in a helicopter, she allegedly made a confession and plea to the doctor who was attending her, saying:

“'Dr. Walsh, you've got to get me to the hospital on time. I don't want anything to happen to this baby. This baby mustn't be born dead.’”

First Lady of the US Jackie Kennedy posing with her children John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, circa 1961. | Source: Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images


Jackie welcomed another son, baby Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, three weeks early. However, according to the author and registered respiratory therapist, Michael S. Ryan, the little boy also suffered respiratory syndrome.

Patrick was born at 12:52 p.m. via cesarean section and lifted headfirst from his mother's womb. He measured at seventeen inches in length and was welcomed at thirty-four weeks old.

Presidential candidate Senator John F. Kennedy says goodbye to his daughter Caroline and pregnant wife Jackie Kennedy on October 30, 1960. | Source: Bettmann/Getty Images


Jackie's second son weighed four pounds and ten and a half ounces. When he was born, he moved his tiny legs and arms a bit, but his first cry was so weak that it was barely audible in the delivery room.

Clint Hill, a Secret Service agent, noted how before; the duo [JFK and Jackie Kennedy] was more restrained in public but Patrick’s loss appeared to be the “catalyst” that changed that.

The tiny, fragile boy was covered with pre-warmed blankets in an already waiting incubator. Doctors had to infuse oxygen into the incubator because Patrick could not breathe independently.

US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with her husband, President John F. Kennedy at the White House in Washington, D.C., circa 1961. | Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images


JFK's son was suffering from what was known as hyaline membrane disease, and his dire situation attracted the world's attention. The child was in everyone's prayers as he struggled to survive with the Boston Globe, confidently stating:

"He's a Kennedy - He'll Make It."

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at a White House ceremony in December 1962, in Washington, DC. | Source: Courtesy of National Archive/Newsmakers/Getty Images


Sadly, Patrick passed away a mere 39 hours after his birth. According to Pierre Salinger, the former President's press secretary, the boy's death hit Jackie and her husband very hard.

Salinger also noted how it helped bring the couple a closeness that they never had before. Clint Hill, a Secret Service agent, noted how before, the duo was more restrained in public, but Patrick's loss appeared to be the "catalyst" that changed that.